REGINA — “It was my childhood dream to be a priest,” said Rev. Arpee Sacramento Urquico in an interview several days after his June 30 ordination, but his dream took a convoluted route to his goal.
Arpee was born in a community about two hours south of Manila, in the Philippines. In 1991 Mt. Pinatubo erupted, burying his village in ash and mud. The villagers were evacuated to another village near Manila, and this is where Urquico grew up and completed his elementary and high school education.
His mother attended daily mass and took him and his two older brothers with her. His father worked as a mechanic in Saudi Arabia. Urquico became involved in his parish as a youth and met seminarians who came to his church for their internship.
“I want to be like them,” he thought, but it wasn’t until high school that the idea of becoming a priest became more firmly implanted in his hand, mostly through the efforts of a Dominican nun: “She kept bugging me about being a good priest, and came to my home to visit my parents. One time she tricked me and two friends into visiting the seminary.”
She had offered to take them shopping but afterward she herded them into the seminary. “My first step inside, I felt different. I felt speaceful,” Urquico recalled. “I thought, ‘What is it that I am feeling?’ Maybe it was the Holy Spirit. You know you’re in the right place when you and everyone around you is happy, and I was happy.”
After graduation from high school he entered the seminary. He would try it for “just one year,” he said. “But I fell in love with it.”
After two years he was advised by the formation team to take some time away from the seminary, get a job and experience the world. He went back to university to finish a philosophy degree. While there he met a girl. They talked about a future together, going to law school, but the thought of the priesthood never left him: “It was always there in the back of my mind.”
Then one day his girlfriend called and said she did not want to be committed but just to continue what they had. “I said no, that is not me,” and he took it as a sign that he was supposed to be a priest.
He completed his philosophy degree, then did year of studies toward a master’s degree in education, majoring in guidance and counselling, but left that to take a job teaching in a Catholic high school.
Two of his friends were invited by a priest to visit a monastery high in the mountains on a weekend and invited him to come along. People came to mass Sunday morning after walking two and three hours to get there. He was impressed, and wondered if God had wanted him to see that to convince him to be a priest and minister to these people. He returned to the seminary.
It was then that his uncle in Prince Albert suggested he come to Canada. He applied, and within a few months arrived in Regina, where he was ordained to the priesthood June 30 (see PM story, July 19).